AFCON final: Haller’s fairytale finish seals glory as Nigeria and Osimhen fall short
Ivory Coast won the Africa Cup of Nations in dramatic fashion after Sebastien Haller’s skillful close-range finish sealed their comeback against Nigeria.
The host nation, who sacked their manager after the groups and repeatedly came back from the brink of elimination, have secured a famous triumph that will have the people of Ivory Coast dancing long into the night.
Nigeria took the lead through William Troost-Ekong’s first-half header before Franck Kessie equalised in the 62nd minute for Ivory Coast. The stage was then set for Borussia Dortmund’s Haller to strike and break Nigerian hearts with just under 10 minutes to play.
Here, our writers analyse and evaluate the key talking points from the game.
Haller’s winner is one for the ages
It is the moment Haller would have been dreaming about 18 months ago, when he was in hospital receiving treatment to remove a testicular tumour.
In the 81st minute, with the score tied at 1-1, the 29-year-old poked home Simon Adingra’s cross and sent the Alassane Ouattara Stadium wild.
Haller had nearly missed out on this competition due to an ankle injury. He flew out to Ivory Coast a couple of weeks before the rest of the squad linked up to work on his fitness. The forward missed all of their group games and made his return as a substitute in the last 16 against Senegal.
Yet despite playing in just four of his team’s seven matches, Haller can still make a strong claim for being the most influential player at this tournament. His clever pass led to Nicolas Pepe winning a penalty against Senegal and the team were transformed when he was introduced from the bench in the quarter-final victory over Mali. And then his volley in the semi-final secured Ivory Coast their place in the final.
Ivory Coast’s game plan against Nigeria was centred around launching the ball into the box as much as possible for him to attack.
Nigeria had to learn a lesson from the first half and cut the danger out at source. They never did and you can only give Haller so many opportunities before he will punish you.